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>Odds, Ends And Major Geekitude

20 May

> Reports are that hundredsof death threats have been received by the justice who wrote the majority opinion in Indiana’s “no right to resist unlawful police entry” decsion (that would be Justice To Be Voted Out In 2012 Steven H. David). This is not unexpected, but both impolite and foolish: we can, should and will vote him out in 2012, sending him home in ignominious defeat to ponder on Third Rails In American Politics. Why waste the effort and collateral risk of dealing with him any other way? Plus, you can only humiliate statist jerks and their addled philosophy if they are alive and fumin’. Still breathing and sent down for idiocy, they are cautionary examples to their would-be overreaching brethren and cistern.

Let us not forget his concurring justices, as well: Randall Shepard and Frank Sullivan, Jr.; when they show up on the “shall [insert idiot’s name here] be retained?” ballot, vote ’em out good and hard; make sure all your friends vote them out, too. Signs and bumper stickers wouldn’t hurt, either. Your home is your castle; they need to be chastised for trying to make it otherwise.

Today, Deus volente and high water permittin’, Turk Turon and I will embark for the Dayton Hamvention at 0800 or shortly after. I’m goin’ into work at cow-yawn and scurrying to do the needful before departure. This is probably going to be the best weather of the weekend — I’m a-gonna nap on the way there, take my B vitamins and hope for the best!

I already have a head start on the geekery: after years of dithering, I purchased a very elderly Bird 43 wattmeter from an online seller from whom I have bought things for work. It’s not pretty (you can buy really nice ones from the guy but you’ll pay more) but guaranteed to be working. This gadget has been the standard workhorse for everyday RF measurement from medium frequencies all the way up through UHF to millimeter waves since about the day after it was introduced; you’ll be seeing it written up over at Retrotechnologist, by and by. The basic design is genuinely clever, a particularly clear version of how to turn a pretty band-specific measurement tool into a highly-flexible, wide range instrument.

I’d write more but it’s shower time. Back to the salt mines!

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>North To Peru!

17 Apr

>Peru is north of Indianapolis — Mexico is, too, but I wasn’t going that far. There was an amateur radio swapmeet, a “hamfest,” up that way Saturday and I was determined to go. There’s a neat antique mall in Kokomo, too, so the trip is a win no matter what.

The trip up U.S. 31 is trippy, too, with interesting semi-abandoned farmhouses, a row of scaled-down power-generation windmills and other oddiments south of Kokomo; there even used to be a strange Navy-type turret pointing a set of twin AA-type guns across the highway!

Little did I know that north of Kokomo, as the land becomes more rolling, the roadside oddness increases, too, from the looks-like-an-oversize-shooting range at Grissom (right smack next to the Miami Correctional Facility Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers, so it’s probably Off Limits) to a neat little air museum I’d overlooked (must schedule road trip with Tam, etc.!) to a pair of hobbit-houses built into hilltops (fatalistically facing the airbase; they’re so close, facing away wouldn’t’ve helped so why not point south and pick up some sun?) and a giant yellow rocking chair (no, really). Plus the AA turret reappeared: now it’s at a garden-statue center! (Alas, I missed that shot. All of the road-image photographs were taken without using the viewfinder — just point and click!)

Photos, to the extent they came out, will have followed.

I did find some interesting things at the hamfest: 1940s tube sockets, “doorknob” oscillator crystals, a telegraph key, etc. Some of that will be showing up at Retrotechnologist

Stopping at the antique mall, I found a very nice Stanley bench or machinist’s level, all steel and still true, at least on a quick test.* Passed up a couple of nice telephones (candlestick and wooden wall-type), an early Remington Noiseless (not a suppressed shotgun, a typewriter) and a nice-looking but incomplete (missing bobbin assembly) Singer Featherweight folding sewing machine ($295, not a terrible price. I’d buy it if I had any idea how to replace the missing bit). They generally have a decent assortment of hand tools; this time a nearly-complete set of Winchester-branded, general-purpose straight-blade screwdrivers showed up, scattered artistically through a couple of cases and optimistically priced at $45 per each! Don’t know when they were made; by appearances and wear, between 1930 and 1955, maybe.

There were plenty of other tools, from old soldering coppers to well-worn, still useful examples of drivers and wrenches and the usual linseed-oiled, wobble-jawed Ford wrenches. Also a surprising lot of large wooden planes, jack or smoothing planes to judge by length; the use of these is probably somewhat mysterious to many modern woodworkers, who just send boards through a powered planer, zzip-burrrr, done. I really should pick one up, a big plane that is, as I don’t have any really large smoothers and it’s not too difficult to judge condition and resharpen the blade. I passed on an alligator wrench, an idea almost lost in time and perhaps it should be. Still, they’re neat when they’re not gnawing the corners from hex-shaped fasteners. (Old-time ones were generally built for square fasteners, the modern one actually fits hex and is worth carrying).

Spat rain the whole time up and back and the Hot Needle Of Inquiry (a/k/a a $2000 ’03 Hyundai Accent) got terrible gas mileage. Perhaps it’s time for a new set of spark plugs.
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* How can you tell an old spirit level is on the level? Find a surface it thinks is level, then turn the thing end for end. Bubble still centered? Still good, then. A similar self-comparison trick is used to check old squares; I’ll leave the details as an exercise for the reader.

>Floral Jailbreak!

9 Apr

>(Larger version is in the offing here — I edited this the first one on my netbook and got the picture size too small).

Who knew daffodils were so bossy? Actual photo from the actual garden of my actual Mom. No flowers were touched in the making of this photograph.

I don’t think further comment from me is necessary. (You should feel free to add your own.)

>Scanner Works

25 Mar

>See:You might be wondering what that device might be. The nature of that gadget (It’s a “QSL-40”) and the man who dreamed it up make for an interesting story. I’ll have details at Retrotechnologist, later now.

…Epson had to insist I blindly install their image viewer as my default; they slipped it into the install tasks without identifying just what it did. I’ll be changing that, since for a quick look, it’s no better than the one Bill Gates stuck in and a little slower. Hey, peripheral makers, this kind of thing does not win you friends, okay?

>Roseholme’s Newest Resident

4 Feb

>Isn’t he a wonder?I put him next to the phone so he can take calls for us — even the “rocketship” he’s holding is actually a pen (a gift from Turk Turon!).

>Melting! Melting!

29 Jan

>What a world: The kilogram is shrinking. That is, either it’s shrinking or the other kilos it is compared to are growing; there’s no way to be certain.

To add to the fun, there’s no consensus on what should replace the present physical standard. Most of the other basic units have some derivable definition, such that given a physics lab and a few tens of thousands of dollars, you could dope out your own Meter or Second (and feed a starving grad student). Not so with the unit of mass.

You realize that if each kilogram is lighter, it looks like I’m getting heavier, don’t you? So unfair!

>Beware The Toaster Gods

25 Jan

>A very long time ago, I replaced a toaster just ‘cos it was old and ugly.

In so doing, I must have angered the Toaster Gods. I have been unable to casually make edible toast ever since.

It comes out burned. It comes (partially) out snagged. It gets snagged, never pops up and flames come out instead of toast. It toasts for ten minutes and comes out hardly toasted. It comes out with weird toaster mung on it. Or ants, no matter how careful I am of the crumb tray.

Do not offend the Toaster Gods. Though their scope may be small, their vengeance is swift and long-lasting. Or are they malevolent AIs, starting with the first Toaster With A Brain™? Impossible to be certain (see “Law, Clarke’s, #3“) In either case, I blame Thomas Disch.

(SRSLY, WTH? It’s about the simplest darned appliance in the entire kitchen. Set the doneness knob, drop ’em in, latch the sliding thingie, tick tick tick, toast, right? Not if you’re me. Sheesh.)

Meanwhile, at XKCD, the odd effects of forming long sodium chains are studied.

Oh, and I’m goin’ back to the doctor. Woke feeling icky again, took an anti-nausea pill and I still feel icky, just less likely to shed ballast.